Published by Thomas Nelson on September 22, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Memoir, Parenting, Theology
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What Do You Do When It Seems God Hasn’t Come Through for You?
When the miracle-working God whom Pastor Stacy Henagan loved and served did not answer the prayers on behalf of her terminally ill one-year-old daughter as expected, she was left crushed with grief and struggling to understand.
How could a loving God allow this to happen? What do you do when it seems God has let you down? Is God trustworthy?Rather than choosing to remain in overwhelming pain and doubt, Stacy emerged with a much greater belief that God is good and trustworthy, even when we don’t think His plans make sense.
Many years ago, Stacy Henagan lost her one-year-old daughter to a brain tumor after bouts of aggressive treatment. She and her husband had earnestly prayed for a miracle, but despite their pleas and continual prayer support from relatives and church family, the tumor took their daughter’s life. In Breathe Again, Henagan shares her story with emotional intensity and perspective from hindsight, showing how she was able to rely on God in the depths of her despair. She never presumes to understand God’s ways or why horrible things happen to specific people, but writes with a sense of grounded hope in who God is.
I enjoyed this most as a memoir. Many of her theological reflections were familiar to me, and I was often eager to get back to the main story and find out what happened next. I think that this book could have been stronger if she had woven her reflections into the narrative more instead of presenting her story and Christian teaching in separate chunks, but I really appreciate this book and am glad that I read it. I have never experienced child loss, but I know many people who have, and I am grateful for Henagan’s willingness to share her story in such a vivid, raw, and immediate way.
Breathe Again: Choosing to Believe There’s More When Life Has Left You Broken is a great resource for bereaved parents and the people who love them. Even though this book can stir up traumatic feelings and memories, Henagan writes in a way that invites catharsis and healing, showing how she has walked this road without losing her faith. Because Henagan lost her daughter two decades ago, this book shares a unique perspective that is different from child loss books written closer to the event. She tells her story as if it had happened yesterday, but also shares about her long-term processing, showing that even when life goes forward, a mother will never forget her child or “just move on” in the way that people expect.
Henagan also provides a helpful perspective about how Christians often try to hide their grief, afraid of what will happen when they are honest with God, themselves, and others about how broken and betrayed they feel. She pushes back against the subtle works righteousness mindset that someone can earn a miracle or demand something from God because of their good behavior, and goes beyond platitudes to engage with challenging aspects of the Christian faith. Although Henagan has primarily directed this book towards fellow Christian women, this is also a good resource for seekers and questioners who are thinking about God because of tragedy. Ultimately, this book provides encouragement, perspective, and hope for anyone in a situation like hers, and can help people who have never lost a child understand the devastation of those who have.